Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When Juries Acquit But the Judges Would Have Convicted

Daniel Givelber & Amy Farrell used data about noncapital felony trials from the National Center for State Courts -- including questionnaires filled out by judge, jurors, prosecutor, and defense attorney -- to explore the differences between jurors' and judges' assessments of guilt. Judges and Juries: The Defense Case and Differences in Acquittal Rates, 33 Law & Soc. Inquiry 31-52 (2008)

Kalven and Zeisel’s (1966) classic study,
The American Jury, concluded that juries were “in revolt” from the law when they acquitted when judges would have convicted. Using data collected by the National Center for State Courts to examine jury decision making in four different communities, this article reexamines the question of the judge and jury’s respective fidelity to the law and evidence by examining the influence on judge and jury of the defendant’s evidence, his criminal record, and his reason for refusing to plead. No data can tell us definitively whether the judge is correct and the jury in error when they disagree, but the data analyzed in the present study can tell us whether the factors that move the jury and fail to move the judge are or are not consistent with the innocence of the accused.


LAlawblogger said...

The jury and the judge may have differences in decision making but these are not major factors in making a verdict as we all know that cases are decided based on merits and the issue of the case.

BloggerPal said...

Of course, jurors and judges have different look on cases brought before them. For one, the jury composes of people who do not necessarily know the law and legal procedures. Moreover, people have different perception on things. What may be right for one may be wrong for another.

David said...

One of the chief advantages of the jury system is that it serves as a check on law itself. Would that we empowered people more, and that citizens serving on juries understood it is not necessarily their duty to apply the law as the judge instructs them.
When they take the oath, they must do so sincerely, of course. But if they come to believe during the course of the trial that the substantive law is not just, they should refuse to enforce it.
Arguments to the contrary are perverse. To argue that a citizen must send a fellow human being to prison because of words intoned by a state official is to argue that the very people entrusted with one of the most important decisions our legal system contemplates are not really trusted with that decision at all.